8 TEAMS 1 DREAM: Quarterfinals set to define season success

rugby07 June 2024 13:00
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© Vodacom Bulls

With the regular season now over, only eight teams remain standing as the road to the VURC Grand Final ramps up.

Round 18 produced a scintillating final round of games, with elation and disappointment touching almost every match-up. This was especially true for the Emirates Lions as they missed out on the Play-Off places after losing to the DHL Stormers in the final minute at Cape Town Stadium. They had to watch as the Ospreys snatched the final Play-Off place with a 77th-minute penalty try, securing a bonus-point win and marking a miraculous turnaround in fortunes.

As we head into the coveted Play-Offs, the competition has been whittled down to just eight teams, all with one dream.

Munster v Ospreys

Munster enjoyed a fruitful campaign during the regular season, finishing at the top of the overall standings.

Remarkably, with just four games remaining, they had less than a 25 per cent chance of securing the top spot. They will feel confident heading into their Quarter-Final against Ospreys having beaten them in Round 12 away from home.

However, they must be wary of their opponent as Ospreys have finished the season by defying the odds, overcoming just a five per cent chance of reaching the Play-Offs heading into Round 18. They finished the season strong with four wins in six matches including two victories against South African opposition, which should serve as a warning to Munster that the Ospreys have thrived as the underdog this year.

Vodacom Bulls v Benetton

The Vodacom Bulls host Benetton in the quarter-finals in what promises to be a blockbuster match-up.

The Vodacom Bulls finished the season with four wins on the bounce, comfortably defeating the newly crowned Challenge Cup champions, the Hollywoodbets Sharks, in the final round. They reached this position in style with the highest ranked attack in the league this season, scoring the highest number of points in the league with 639 including a league leading 85 tries.

However, the South Africans will have their hands full as they face an incredibly well-drilled and disciplined Benetton side. The Italians gave away just 150 penalties and 6 yellow cards across their VURC campaign this season and boast an array of young stars in their side, including 6 Nations Player of the Tournament, Tomas Menoncello, and Italy captain Michele Lamaro.

Benetton have already made history by becoming the first Italian team to reach the VURC Play-Offs. They will be wanting to continue rewriting the history books by upsetting the Bulls in Pretoria this weekend.

Leinster v Ulster

The third quarter-final is an old Irish rivalry as Ulster takes a trip to the Aviva Stadium to face Leinster.

While Leinster started the season strong, they have faltered slightly towards the end of the regular season, with three losses in their last five games. Despite this our simulations give them the highest chance of winning the overall championship (35 per cent).

In order to do this, they will have to topple an old foe in Ulster, who they recently lost to in a tightly fought contest at Kingspan Stadium, 23-21.

Ulster have proven to be a gritty side this season, grinding out victories throughout, with an average winning margin of just six points.

It will be a fascinating contest between the sides, who have already battled for the Irish Shield this season, with Leinster coming out victorious by just two points.

Who will take the spoils this weekend in Dublin?

Glasgow Warriors v DHL Stormers

The final match-up of the quarter-finals sees Glasgow Warriors host last season’s runners-up in what is expected to be a highlight of the weekend.

The Warriors have thrived on a free-flowing attacking game, supported by their strong scrum, which is ranked 3rd best in the league this season. In contrast, the DHL Stormers’ scrum, ranked 14th with just an 88 per cent success rate, has at times hindered their ability to showcase their backline’s champagne rugby.

While both sides are renowned for their attacking rugby, the scrum is set to be a critical battleground at the Scotstoun Stadium. It is an intriguing clash, with the DHL Stormers improving their away form with three consecutive wins and the Warriors having lost two of their last three games against South African sides. Saturday night’s match is certainly one to watch.

With four mouth-watering fixtures lined up, the United Rugby Championship looks set for more drama, upsets and excitement. Who will overcome the odds and make it to the Semi-Final showdown?